Saturday 21 October 2017

The Carnival of Lost Souls review

There can be no greater feeling than that of loving someone and being loved back. However, sometimes that gift can also be a curse. In the The Carnival of Lost Souls, ill-fated love and the afterlife are explored through the blending of circus and musical theatre. Performed in the Melba Spiegeltent, the show tell the story of a gypsy fortune teller and a giddy clown who despite being meant to be together, are destined to be apart.

A late 1800s carnival ambience is immediately established through Jason Bovaird's effective lighting design and Clockwork Butterfly's highly detailed Victorian Gothic and Steampunk costumes. As such, the acts themselves retain a simplicity in style and are more about showcasing the skill of the performers rather than distracting you with the razzle-dazzle of a large-scale circus.

Friday 20 October 2017

7 Pleasures - Melbourne Festival review

It's interesting how much uncomfortable conversation sex and nudity can create and how people can easily feel confronted by seeing a breast or a penis. So when you're watching a performance art piece in which the dancers are nude for the entire show, it can lead to some awkward moments. However, Mette Ingvarsten is well aware of this fact and in 7 Pleasures she immediately knocks down the obvious issue before the performance has even begun, or before anyone in the audience is given a chance to realise it has begun.

Ingarsten's work explores the pleasure - and the pain - the body can provide and the difficulty in being able to enjoy one's own body when faced with constriction and conflict. The set design for 7 Pleasures is simple and familiar, a living room with a few chairs, a table, coffee table and a pot plant. Its familiarity is what sets you at ease...except for the giant sculpture of naked bodies forming in a back corner.

Tree of Codes - Melbourne Festival review

When choreographer Wayne McGregor, composer Jamie XX, and visual artist Olafur Eliasson come together for a new contemporary dance production, expectations are high. Taking inspiration from Jonathan Safran Foer's 2010 book, Tree of Codes, this production of the same name is a stunning collaboration of movement, lighting, sound, and stage design.

Interestingly, Foer's book was inspired by another book, Bruno Schulz's The Street of Crocodiles, a collection of short stories of a merchant family in a small town. Schulz story is full of metaphors, mythology and a blurring of fantasy and reality, and for his book, Foer cut out a large number of words and sentences from Schulz's stories and re-arranged them to form new stories and ideas. Even the title itself is made up of the letters from Schulz's book title.

Tuesday 17 October 2017

All The Sex I've Ever Had - Melbourne Festival review

Not many people think about 65 year-olds having an active sex life. Even Hollywood films rarely have characters of that age talking about sex, and when it does happen, it's usually emphasised for comedic value. However, in All The Sex I've Ever Had, Mammalian Diving Reflex and director Darren O'Donnell bring six people over the age of 65 together and have them share their memories from their birth right up until the present day - to a roomful of strangers.

All The Sex I've Ever Had has toured around the world and what makes this a unique experience is that it is always performed by locals to that area, so each season is going to be completely different as the stories shared are based on the performers' own life. The structure is simple enough with the six cast - Beatrix, Brenda, Lionel, Noel, Philip and Suzie - sitting behind a table, and as our 20 year-old MC and sound designer, Moses Carr announces each year through a microphone, they share with us important moments of their lives. The fact that we are able to get a real picture of who these people are through a few sentences for each year is a testament to the collaborative efforts between the creative team and the performers in threading six narratives together that are engaging and meaningful to the audience.

Sunday 8 October 2017

Backbone - Melbourne Festival review

Just when you think you've seen all that is possible in circus, along comes Backbone (by Adelaide company Gravity and Other Myths) that makes you think again. Presented as part of the Melbourne Festival, this show examines the need of strength and support from those around us, and a need to be able to come together as a unified front if we are to ever succeed in life wonderfully represented through some mind-boggling acrobatics.

There's a strong ritualistic aesthetic in Backbone as the performers pour buckets of sand early in the show onto the stage in varying patterns. They begin to move left to right across the floor in a repetitive rite of passage while executing captivating twists, flips, balances, jumps and turns that I've never witnessed before. These bodies are doing things that should be physically impossible and it's baffling as to how they keep their energy and momentum going for the entire 75 minutes. 

The strength, teamwork, flexibility and trust that lies within this troupe (Martin Schreiber, Lachlan Binns, Jascha Boyce, Jacob Randell, Lewie West, Lewis Rankin, Joanne Curry, Mieke Lizotte, Lachlan Harper, Jackson Manson) is clearly evident, as bodies are thrown from one side of the stage and caught on the other and three person human towers are constructed. Boyce's hypnotic suit and rock act has her fixing her sight out towards the audience, remaining expressionless throughout her act so even as she stands precariously on the shoulders of one performer and being passed to another, her eyes stay locked and she remains calm, knowing everything will go according to plan.

Saturday 7 October 2017

All Of My Friends Were There - Melbourne Festival review

Many of us would agree that spending your birthday with a room full of strangers would generally not be the most ideal way to celebrate the occasion - however with The Guerrilla Museum's new interactive and immersive live artwork, All Of My Friends Were There, that's exactly what we get to do. The show a lucky dip of adventure, where you are allocated to a group and led through a number of rooms with performances and experiences revolving around birthdays.

We are split into our groups before we even enter the venue and my plus one is not to be seen again until the end, so it's time to make new friends and party like it's all our birthdays. It's difficult to review this type of show when you only get to experience about one quarter of it, but the conversations post-show made it clear that there was a lot more happening than that which a single person is able to experience.

Thursday 5 October 2017

Death Match review

Life is just one big competition where only the best will survive and thrive. Being nice will have you finishing last, and who wants that? Presented by the Monash Centre for Theatre and Performance, Death Match is a high stakes competitive look at what it takes to win in life while creating discussion on some big issues around what it means to live.

The cast of six (Stephen Amos, Rebecca Catalano, Elly D’Arcy, Aleeah Gabriel, Earl Marrows, Ursula Searle) are highly committed and bring emotion and truth to their characters as they exercise their way through to success. D'Arcy particularly brings great comedic timing and a nuanced portrayal of uncertainty to her character while Catalano also impresses with the matter-of-fact attitude of hers.

Tuesday 3 October 2017

Ugly Duckling - Melbourne Fringe Festival review

Meet Duckie, she wants to be famous and be adored by everyone, but what can she do when is an ugly duckling? In a new cabaret show written by Spanky! and Karla Hillam, Ugly Duckling is 60 minutes of great songs, laughter and some highly entertaining duck-tales about what happens when an ugly duck realises that she is not destined to become a beautiful swan, leading her on an adventure of self-discovery and learning to be happy with who she is.

Also starring in the role of Duckie, Hillam delivers a committed and highly engaging performance. She is clearly having fun with the character as she fills us in on her life and the realisation that things don’t always go the way you want them to be. With an impressive singing voice, the songs and music captivate everyone in the room and add further detail to the stories Duckie is sharing with us. Joining Hillam on stage is musical director and accompanist Andrew Kroenert who plays piano, guitar, makes a cameo as Duckie’s love interest and sings, with his and Hillam's duet being one of the musical highlights of Ugly Duckling.

The story is rich in detail and moves at quite a fast pace which keeps things interesting, however Hillam’s accent seems ill-suited for the show as it makes the audience work that extra bit to follow every word and keep up with the story.

The costuming is well designed with individual touches to the outfits that Hillam wears so that even though she doesn’t really look like a duck, there are many references to being a duck. She dazzles and sparkles with glitter and feathers adorning her body and her make-up - particularly those incredibly long eye lashes - is suitably matched to her duck persona. The webbed-feet heels are also a brilliant touch to the character.

Sunday 1 October 2017

Top 10 shows of 2017 Melbourne Fringe Festival

And so ends my favourite time of the year: the Melbourne International Fringe Festival. I'm constantly amazed by how many quality shows are put on during this time that challenge, entertain and surprise me. While I juggle full-time work and part-time study, I always make sure to block out my calendar for Fringe. 
After seeing a mere 58 shows, my top ten shows are presented below. There are so many shows I wish I had been able to get to but the fates were against us and I promise to make it to your next one.
If the show was reviewed, you will find a link next to its name for more thoughts and opinions. 
Can't wait to see what 2018 brings!

1. Cactus and the Mime - review 

A Cactus Mascot and a wannabe Mime decide to re-enact their relationship in the style of a children's show. What follows is a hysterical story of love and growing up that ends in heartbreak and looks at what happens when you are unable to move on when tragedy strikes.
Roby Favretto and Caitlin Spears as Trevor and Mandy have created a story that immediately draws you in, and one that finds just as much truth and honesty as it does with its humour and laughs. As the jokes become more vicious and personal, we begin to understand that there is something much darker lying underneath all this, something that Trevor and Mandy will ultimately end up facing head on.
There is also a blurring of performance and real life, which raises the question of how much performing do we do in our own lives and when are we authentic?
It's this blurring of themes and genres that Cactus and the Mime takes big gambles but it makes the work so much more impressive because of it.